Review by Kamikaze_Kenny

"Erm... welcome to the galaxy?"

A lot of people say there's only about five different core plots that any story can have, whether it's films, books or games. This may be true, but it seems that there's only one plot that Mario games can have.

Yes, Princess Peach has gotten herself kidnapped again. Evidently she's gotten some security since the early days when she was whisked away left, right and centre, but during some sort of party that drunken oaf Bowser comes along with his fleet of space-faring galleons (how do they breathe in space?) and takes the bloody castle, along with Peach, security and all, and decides it'll be a good idea to take the adventure to outer space. Holding on for dear life, Mario tries to save her but is distracted by some bunnies playing on a planet. Or something.

(anybody who's outraged at my lack of spoiler tags should be shot)

(in the brain)

(come on, it's not like you didn't see it coming)

Anyway, Mario's adventure to save Princess Peach for approximately the eighty gazillionth time begins on the afore-mentioned planet of the bunnies (which incidentally is not every Playboy reader's dream) where the rabbits inexplicably teach him the controls. It turns out these are pretty easy - if you've played Mario 64 or Sunshine you know what to expect. We've got the usual jumping, crouching, long-jumping, back-flipping and triple-jumping. The only difference is attacks, which are mapped to shaking the remote and result in a spin, which takes a second or two to charge back up again which can be annoying when facing the evil giant lava squids or whatnot that pop up every few seconds from behind each and every rock.

So we've got the basics of the controls nailed. What else does this entail that requires the Wii? Not a lot, and I'm not sure whether that's a good thing or a bad thing. You see, at any point in the game you can point the remote at the screen and a crosshair appears. Move this crosshair over star bits (basically a new collectible) and they'll automatically fly to you. Press the B button and a star bit (if you have any) will be shot, allowing you to shoot enemies to stun them, then get Mario to take them out. Yep, it seems that Nintendo have listened to all the whiny kids who want Mario to do a GTA and finally get guns, but they've done it in a good way, and not in a blatant rip-off like Shadow The Hedgehog (which I strangely liked for some reason). This is apparently a hoot with a second player, but unfortunately I lack a second remote to give it a go.

Also requiring the Wii is the few additions to the control scheme. You see, Mario will occasionally jump on a huge ball (oo-er) or go surfing on a ray. The remote then is needed to balance and direct and, whilst the ball rolling is damn good fun, the ray surfing quite frankly sucks. Mario also gets captured inside bubbles and requires you to point the remote at the screen and act as a fan to blow him along, and also to suck Mario into pulse-stars - both of which are quite fun. Fortunately, the pulse-stars and bubbles are plentiful, but the ball rolling and ray surfing aren't.

With regards to what you actually do, Mario is caught in the regular "get X amount of stars" predicament - he's ended up with Rosalina, who has an observatory with which to chase Bowser but, of course, requires stars to power it. Bowser must be going bloody slow because we've got enough time to collect sixty of the blighters and he's still in the area. Each star is, of course, picked up by completing objectives in the levels, of which there are approximately loads. Each level doesn't actually have a huge amount of stars, meaning there are more levels - a good compromise to Mario 64 and Sunshine, which I thought really didn't have that many levels at all and loads of objectives each, making them repetitive after a while.

The levels are also of a decent variety, which is again something I like. These go from space junkyards to floating haunted mansions to globes of water with a beach to icy mountains to forests to floating gardens to deserts to... well, you get the picture. And whilst there is some environment re-use (lots of the bee levels) they mostly feel quite fresh - there's a fair bit of anticipation as you select a new level and find Mario flying in over giant toy trains with an evil Meccano robot of doom in the distance.

But I still haven't mentioned one of the best new mechanics - gravity. You see, normally you jump and come back down to the ground. But what if you are on a platform, and jump off? You jump to another platform but miss it, going under. Suddenly the other platform's gravity takes hold of you and you land on it's underside? That's the beauty of Galaxy's platforming - a lot of things have their own gravity, allowing you to pull off some really amazing feats and control yourself, flying through the air, to take advantage of changes in gravity and cheat the game, finding shortcuts which probably shouldn't have been there.

Additionally, some parts also adapt the good old 2D gameplay, giving Mario a side-on perspective and lack of walking in/out of the screen. These bits are mostly brilliant, and it's a shame that they're not used all that often.

If what I've described sounds great, then I have a few notes of caution. The camera is pretty good, but still falls into the same trap as the usual 3D platformers. It'll change randomly from time to time so you walk off ledges, it'll hide enemies and ledges, and it occasionally won't allow itself to be changed by you. Swimming is a pain as in just about every game. And a lot of the challenges - in particular some of the "collect 100 purple coins and get back to the star in the time limit" - will have you ripping your hair out with frustration (damn you evil Toy galaxy purple star). The new power-ups are also a mixed bag - Bee Mario is ok, as is Ghost Mario, but Spring Mario is just plain annoying. Those wanting replay value will also be disappointed, as 120 stars merely unlocks Luigi (who has slightly different handling), and 120 stars as Luigi unlocks a tiny new level which has to be the easiest level of any game ever.

I should also note the production values are top-notch - some of the music is catchy and excellent, whilst the graphics look pretty damn good considering the Wii's capabilities (they look about par with some parts of Kameo on the 360).

Overall, the game is good - a bargain for me, considering I bought it for £20. It's probably a bit too easy if you play it non-stop (which I don't) and, despite the few flaws, even though they are pretty sizable flaws, it's got to be my favourite Mario game. For me, Mario 3 gave us a world to explore (which I suppose Mario World did better), Mario 64 took it into 3D, and Mario Galaxy actually took it further (rather than just giving us a new contraption a la Sunshine).

Reviewer's Rating:   4.0 - Great

Originally Posted: 11/10/08

Game Release: Super Mario Galaxy (EU, 11/16/07)

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